How to cope on Father’s Day without a dad: Experts reveal how to manage grief and estrangement – by seeking out positive male role models and buying yourself a gift
- Bereavement Coordinator at Marie Curie Claire Collins shared tips on coping
- Urged people not to bottle up their feelings and talk to someone
- Encouraged people to arrange nice activity for the day to distract themselves
- Said day can be used to celebrate other positive male role models in life
Father’s Day is an important celebration for many families, but what happens when you’re grieving or don’t have a dad in your life due to estrangement?
Speaking to FEMAIL, Claire Collins, Bereavement Coordinator, Marie Curie, explained the effects that grieving and estrangement has on those facing the day without their dads.
She said that whether your loss is recent or many years ago, an even such as Father’s Day can trigger difficult emotions.
‘The effects of grief are different in each person. It can be a low-level grumbling in the back of your mind, like a wound or a broken bone that is badly set, she said.
With a broken bone we can take painkillers to help manage the pain, but in order to tackle the issue at its source we might need to go back to the hospital to get the broken bone re-set, something which would be extremely painful.
‘It’s the same with grief, although we can try to manage the pain ultimately, we might need to confront it at the source and getting the bone re-set, just like going to therapy or counselling.’
It can also be a difficult milestone for children too.
‘Children who don’t have a father in their lives, either through estrangement or death, may feel excluded and upset by that absence at school on Father’s Day when the other children are making cards’, Claire said.
Here, Claire reveals her tips for dealing with Father’s Day if you are estranged or grieving for a dad.
Experts have offered their advice to deal with Father’s Day if you are grieving a loved one or estranged from your father (stock image)
Dealing with the commercialisation of Father’s Day
Claire explained: ‘Father’s Day is everywhere, in the shops and supermarkets and now in the digital age it’s like being bombarded and it feels like a stab in the heart.’
A decade or two ago it was much easier to avoid the celebrations, but the commercialisation adds to the sense of being different if you don’t have a father in your life.
‘It might make you feel ‘other’, like the rest of the world is happy and you are not, so you can feel excluded from the perceived happiness and celebration that takes place,’ Claire said.
‘Remember to opt out of Father’s Day emails from brands, this can be useful if you do not want any reminders on the day itself.’
If you are dealing with estrangement
People tend to sympathise with those who have been bereaved, but Father’s Day is no less difficult for people with dads they’re not in contact with.
‘Estrangement is something that always lives with you and never really goes away.
‘It’s a constant concern because you are almost grieving the loss of a person even though they are still there,’ Claire explained.
‘Estrangement comes with a lot of massive and painful decisions that have to be revisited constantly.
‘The big decision is usually whether or not to reach out to that person, but this decision is often hampered by deep-rooted feelings of rejection.
‘It’s hard for people with estranged parents to expose their vulnerability and reach out to them, and if they are rejected again and again it may come to a point where they vow never to make that effort again.
‘Often when children with estranged parents grow up and have kids themselves, they find themselves contemplating the same decision again.
‘Remember, if you are dealing with estrangement, always be gentle with yourself.
‘Although your dad may not be a figure in your life, you could use Father’s Day to celebrate the other positive male role models in your life, perhaps a Grandad or uncle.
‘Turn a negative feeling into a positive one by spending the day with them’, Claire added.
Mother taking priority while you are grieving
If you’ve lost your father, you might feel like you don’t have the space to grieve if you’re support the parent who is left behind.
‘Often children who have lost a parent become protective over their other parent because they need them to be okay in order to feel safe,’ Claire explained.
‘A child may sit on their feelings and try to protect others or take on the responsibility of making sure their other parent is okay,’
‘That’s why it’s important that they have a safe space where they are allowed to just feel and be their authentic self, whether that be in therapy or just taking to somebody neutral.
‘Counselling can be a safe space where someone who has lost their dad can be at one with their loss, without having to be caretaker to their parent or their siblings,’ Claire continued.
Claire’s five tips for dealing with grief on Father’s Day
1. Remember you are not alone and acknowledge what you are going through, it is okay to grieve.
2. Share your loss with someone, a problem shared can be a problem diminished.
3. Arrange an activity to do on the day itself to take your mind off of things and try to enjoy yourself.
4. Buy yourself a gift, especially if you never had a gift from your father, you deserve a treat.
5. Reach out to support from a neutral source like Marie Curie’s support line or your GP
As the parent of a child who has lost their father
Claire said: ‘When a child loses someone important, they often mirror the behaviour of their surviving parent. Showing sadness following a bereavement demonstrates to the child that it’s okay to be sad too, almost giving them permission.
‘In this case, if a child loses their dad, it can be useful if their surviving parent is open in talking about their loss, therefore showing the child that it is okay to feel grief, and it is okay to ask for help.
‘This does not mean leaning on the child for support but allowing themselves to say that they are sad.
‘After a child loses their dad, their surviving parent can lead the way by modelling the need to say that they are struggling and need to talk.
‘And that doesn’t have to be mean going to therapy, it could simply be leading the conversation by getting pictures of daddy out, talking about him, and saying what they miss about him.
‘Some people may want to avoid difficult conversations after experiencing a bereavement at the risk of upsetting someone, and by thinking that they are protecting them, but this avoidance may not be beneficial in the long run.
‘It is kinder to have difficult conversations about death and loss, and to show that it is okay to shed a tear,’ Claire added.
If you are bereaved at a young age
Even if it’s many years since you lost your dad, a sense of grief around Father’s Day can still feel raw, especially if you’ve not dealt with your feelings.
‘If the loss or absence of the father is from a very young age, we may not have the emotional tools to deal with it at the time and end up having to ‘re-process’ it from an adult perspective’, Claire explained.
‘Children who don’t have a father in their lives, either through estrangement or death, may feel excluded and upset by that absence at school on Father’s Day when the other children are making cards.
‘Children can carry a lot of guilt after loss, and they may be asking themselves why their father isn’t in their life and whether they are good enough.’
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